Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Thai spy's mother begs for pardon

Puea Thai and Thaksin asked to help jailed spy

The mother of Sivarak Chutipong is pinning her hopes on the Puea Thai Party and former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra getting her son a royal pardon from Cambodia after he was sentenced yesterday to seven years in jail on spying charges.

‘‘ I told [first secretary] Kamrob [Palawatwichai] that it is true that a private plane had landed, but the information I gave to him was not official because I did not know who was on the plane. SIVARAK CHUTIPONG CONVICTED THAI ENGINEER

After the Phnom Penh Municipal Court ruling, Simarak na Nakhon Phanom called the opposition party from the Cambodian capital and appealed to party chairman Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and Thaksin to step in.

Mrs Simarak consulted her lawyer Khieu Sambou after the verdict and both agreed not to appeal the case in order to start proceedings for a pardon.

The lawyer will send a copy of the court sentence to Puea Thai today to help the party launch efforts to have Mr Sivarak returned to Thailand.

"I would like to ask Gen Chavalit again to help me and my son. I am devastated, especially when I saw my son handcuffed. I could not hold back my tears," she said in the telephone call.

Mrs Simarak said she intentionally bypassed assistance from the government for fear the conflict between Bangkok and Phnom Penh could be a stumbling block in the attempt to get the pardon.

"Freedom for my son comes before anything else. It will be difficult for those in conflict to sit down and talk," she said.

Puea Thai will hold a meeting today on how to help the 31-year-old engineer who worked for Cambodia Air Traffic Services (CATS). The key people working on the pardon will be Gen Chavalit and Noppadon Pattama, who is a legal adviser to Thaksin.

Gen Chavalit has already prepared a draft letter to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Puea Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit expected the letter would be ready to be sent to Phnom Penh on Friday and urged the government not to misinterpret the party's help as having a political motive.

The Foreign Ministry, however, will not sit idly by as it is ready to request for a royal pardon, despite Mrs Simarak's preference for the opposition party to assist.

Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, the secretary to the foreign minister, said the ministry was not perturbed by the Puea Thai move.

"We're waiting for [a copy of] the verdict before moving forward to the next step," Mr Chavanond said.

A question that needed to be addressed now was whether the request for a royal pardon started by Puea Thai was possible as, according to Mr Chavanond, only the prisoner, relatives or the government can request it.

In addition to the seven-year jail term, Sivarak was also fined 10 million riel (82,500 baht) for supplying Thaksin's flight schedule to the Thai embassy when the ousted premier was in Cambodia last month.

"The flight plan of His Excellency Thaksin was very important for the Thai government, but this information would have caused serious danger to Thaksin," judge Ke Sakhan said in his verdict.

"Thaksin is Cambodia's adviser, so the government of Cambodia has an obligation to protect his life. If anything happens to him, we would be blamed and that could lead to rocky relations with Thailand," he added.

During his trial, Sivarak asked the court to drop the charges and denied stealing any documents.

He told the court that although he had informed the Thai embassy's first secretary by telephone of a flight arrival, he was not aware that Thaksin was on board.

"I told [first secretary] Kamrob [Palawatwichai] that it is true that a private plane had landed, but the information I gave to him was not official because I did not know who was on the plane," Sivarak said. "I didn't get a copy of the flight schedule and hand it over to anyone."

Two other employees of CATS testified that Sivarak asked them about the flight schedule.

The prosecution said Thaksin's plane had flown for about an hour over Thailand on its way to Cambodia from Mumbai, India.

Sivarak was arrested by Cambodian authorities on Nov 12. Thaksin's private jet landed in Phnom Penh on Nov 10 to give his first lecture after being appointed as the government adviser in October. He returned to Dubai from Siem Reap on Nov 15.

The Thai-owned CATS now is temporarily under the control of the Cambodian government.

After the arrest of Sivarak, Phnom Penh on Nov 12 ordered Mr Kamrob to be expelled and Thailand retaliated hours later by ordering the first secretary at the Cambodian embassy in Thailand to return to Cambodia.

Mrs Simarak, who attended the court, urged Mr Kamrob to act responsibly and blamed him for causing her son to get into trouble. Without contact from him, her son would not have been jailed, she said.

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